Review Category : Science & Technology

World’s most advanced instrument for imaging plants turns skyward

The search for planets outside our solar system is an underreported but active field. Dozens of powerful instruments have been designed to detect these faint heavenly bodies in unique ways. Whether ground-based or in orbit, they face numerous challenges. The Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) opened in November last year and is the most recent addition to this exclusive group of space investigators. The GPI is the world’s most advanced instrument for directly observing light coming from Jupiter-sized, or Jovian, planets. Located in Chile, it is the culmination of a decade of work among many institutions, including UC Santa Cruz, the Lawrence Livermore National Observatory and UCLA. GPI is designed to observe the atmospheres of large young planets within tens of light years away and take their spectra, which reveals the planets’ composition. “Newly-formed planets are very warm, and the Gemini Planet Imager looks in the infrared to detect their light,” said Jeffrey Chilcote, a graduate student at UCLA and a contributor to the GPI project. Hot solid objects emit light... ...

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UC Davis study finds little difference in efficacy of donor tissue based on age

Much like other parts of the body, parts of the eye can be transplanted. Unfortunately, there are cornea shortages around the world. In order to better this situation, UC Davis’ Dr. Mark Mannis and his multicenter research team conducted 10 years of fieldwork that compared the longevity of corneas from older donors to corneas from younger donors in transplant recipients. “The study confirmed the fact that older tissue functions just as well as younger tissue,” said Mannis, UC Davis professor, chair of the UC Davis Eye Center and co-principal investigator of the cornea study. This is the largest corneal study ever done. For 10 years it compared the corneal clarity of donors ages 66 and above to donors under the age of 66. At the five-year mark the success rate of younger tissue to older tissue was the same. “Whether it was a younger donor or an older donor we saw an 86 percent chance of success,” Mannis said. At 10 years after the transplants, the results were mostly the... ...

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Circadian rhythm dictated by dietary pattern

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine have revealed a fascinating connection between cellular metabolism and the circadian rhythm — commonly known as the biological clock. Conducted in the laboratory of Dr. Paolo Sassone-Corsi, one of the world’s leading researchers on circadian genetics, a recent project examined the effects of a high-fat diet on the expression of genes responsible for unintended circadian oscillation (weird biological rhythms). The study, “Reprogramming of the Circadian Clock by Nutritional Challenge,” was published in the journal Cell in November of 2013. But first, what exactly is the circadian rhythm? For the typical college student, it’s certainly something that many of our priorities and schedules disagree with us on. However, for the ordinary sentient organism, the circadian rhythm is the daily cycle of biological events and activities that typically occur in a predictable fashion. In human beings, the circadian rhythm is responsible for processes such as the sleeping and waking cycle; it may cause one to feel keen and alert at one point of the day... ...

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Gratefulness leads to happiness

When it comes to gratefulness and positive thinking, not much research is available on children and adolescents. However, Dr. Robert Emmon’s research from UC Davis, in collaboration with Dr. Giacomo Bono (Whittier College) and Dr. Jeffrey Froh (Hofstra University) builds a scientific basis for trying to understand gratitude in children. This study is one-of-a-kind because it is the first to assess grateful thinking in adolescents — an area of research that has been neglected due to the common misconception that children are ungrateful. “Gratitude is the ability to be aware of the gifts life provides that we have done absolutely nothing to earn, deserve or receive,” said Dr. Emmons in an email interview. Seven hundred middle school students were assessed on their measures of gratitude, pro-social behavior, life satisfaction and social integration every three months for a six-month period. The researchers found that gratitude is a complex emotion that begins to spark in children around the ages of 10 and 14. “Participants were instructed to count up to five things... ...

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How helmets help

There are a lot of things we acquire when we turn 18: the right to vote, the ability to purchase lottery tickets, etc. We also gain the right to bicycle without a helmet. Whether or not this is good for us, many young Americans choose to embrace this freedom. Most don’t understand how helmets even serve to protect us from injury, but at the heart of the matter, physics explains how something so simple can prevent so much damage. When we crash our bikes, the amount of damage we receive boils down to two main things: how fast we stop and how concentrated the force is. “During a bike crash your head comes in contact with the ground and … the ground exerts forces that cause your head to stop moving,” said David Webb, a physics lecturer at UC Davis, in an email interview. The ground exerts so much force that it can stop our forward motion within seconds. Without helmets, our heads then experience an incredible amount of concentrated... ...

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Warping can compress big data

UCLA researchers in the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have created a new data compression technique that surpasses the capabilities of current techniques such as JPEG. The team, led by Northrop-Grumman Optoelectronics chair professor of electrical engineering at UCLA, Bahram Jalali, created their technique through the realization that data could be compressed through stretching and warping the data by way of a mathematical function. One specific application for this data compressor was targeted toward “Big Data” in the science and medical field where there are massive amounts of data needing to be processed. “Any digital object (piece of data) — a text file, a video, a picture; has a certain size, measured in bytes. Compressing that object allows you to represent it with a smaller amount of data. Compression is desirable for two main reasons. One: the compressed data takes up less space than the uncompressed data, so you can store more stuff in the same space. Two: because the compressed data has a smaller size, it... ...

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This Week in Science: 1/13 – 1/21

Our hands wrinkle for no real reason Research conducted by Gary Lewin at the Max Debruck Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin-Buch, Germany and recently published in PLOS ONE, uncovered the reason that our hands become wrinkled and soggy from water. The research suggests that finger wrinkling from soaking up too much water is actually not a mammalian adaptation, as previously suggested, but rather an incidental response to feeling warm water for a prolonged period. https://www.sciencenews.org/article/wrinkle-arises-soggy-hand-studies   Promising new drug for PTSD patients Findings of a new drug published in the journal Cell indicate that certain inhibitors may improve treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) patients. In this preclinical study, researchers tested on mice whether HDACis (inhibitors that activate genes involved in learning and memory) could help the brain to permanently reduce the effect of old traumatic memories. The research suggests that drugs with HDACis in combination with the regular exposure-based therapies can improve treatment for suffering PTSD patients. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140116130648.htm   Process behind heart arrhythmias discovered A study conducted by... ...

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QuizUp hits campus

A new trivia game called QuizUp has surfaced on the iOS platform and since its launch on Nov. 7, 2013 it has gained more than four million users playing across the world. QuizUp is a free, social trivia game that allows you to battle against your friends’ knowledge in a variety of subjects. To connect with your friends, sync QuizUp to Facebook, Twitter or your phone’s contacts. Through the app, you can chat and challenge them to a game of trivia. Unfortunately, an internet connection is needed to play since all matches happen in real time. This affects the game’s mobility because internet isn’t always readily available. There are currently over 300 topics (and counting) for you to choose from in a variety of categories, from history to music, sports, movies and more. The app is said to have a topic for everyone’s taste; however, if you don’t see something for you, you can contribute a topic to the game. There are many educational topics to stimulate yourself — a... ...

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Watch and learn (the night sky)

The Quadrantids meteor shower opened the new year with its annual display of ice and rock forming blue and white tails as they approached the sun. Unlike other meteor showers that peak for a couple of days, the Quadrantids peaked for only about eight hours around Jan. 3. The Quadrantids also came from an asteroid, an unusual source compared to the typical comet. However, those peaking hours were a special time for stargazers, as they could catch a glimpse of as many as two meteors a minute. If you missed this one, the next closest shower will be in April when the Lyrids rain on the northern hemisphere. January constellations improve as the nights grow late. If being outside in 40 degree weather is acceptable to you, you can catch Orion, the Hunter and Taurus, the Bull around 10 p.m. These constellations contain two of the most brilliant deep sky objects visible to the naked eye. Deep sky objects, or astronomical objects other than stars or solar system objects (e.g.... ...

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High cholesterol is not only bad for heart, study finds

In a recent study conducted at the UC Davis Alzheimer’s Disease Center, a team of experts confirmed the relationship between unhealthy cholesterol fractions in the blood and an increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Led in part by Dr. Brian Reed of UC Davis, the study was the first of its kind to demonstrate the correlation between unhealthy cholesterol levels and cerebral amyloid plaque deposition in the brain. The study was published online as  ”Associations Between Serum Cholesterol Levels and Cerebral Amyloidosis” on Dec. 30 in JAMA Neurology. The study revealed that elevated circulating levels of cholesterol, specifically “bad” LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol, and low levels of “good” HDL (high density lipoprotein) cholesterol, lead to the deposition of amyloid proteins in cerebral tissues; amyloid deposits are significant pathological markers for Alzheimer’s disease. “Alzheimer’s disease is defined by a combination of clinical findings and pathology.  Clinically, the person has a dementia — a loss of multiple cognitive abilities severe enough to impair day-to-day function … this dementia is due to damage... ...

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Professor Profile: Dr. Bryan Enderle

Basic chemistry is the undisputable right of passage for each young science major at the University of California. In what is effectively a three-quarter crash course on all things chemistry-related, the UC Davis Chemistry 2 series serves as an introduction to basic chemical intuition; the series tests the wit and persistence of many young science majors, and eventually beckons them into upper-division coursework. Dr. Bryan Enderle is one of the few professors in the Chemistry 2 series who, for some students, has helped to improve or transform their perspective on the subject. At 39, Bryan Enderle is one of the youngest lecturers in the UC Davis Chemistry Department. He received his bachelor’s degree in chemical and petroleum engineering from UC Berkeley in 1997, and his doctorate in chemical engineering from UC Davis in 2002. He has been on board as an affiliated faculty member at UC Davis ever since. Dr. Enderle’s past endeavors as a UC Davis PhD student have helped him to feel connected with students — he has... ...

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This Week in Science: 11/25 -12/01

Supercomputers and Humanoids With the help of quantum mechanics and supercomputers, scientists are now able to create new materials without having to run experiments first. Materials science allows engineers to turn matter into new and useful forms. Researchers working at the California Institute of Technology and five other institutions plan to use supercomputers to study thousands of chemical compounds at the same time, increasing efficiency. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-supercomputers-will-yield-a-golden-age-of-materials-science Nostalgia at its best A study links nostalgia and boost in optimism for the future. According to Dr. Tim Wildschut, from the University of Southampton, nostalgia for past events invokes self-esteem and maintains self-worth, which helps an individual to foresee the future as optimistic. Optimism seems to be linked with improved health by boosting the immune system. This feeling has also been noted to make people more charitable. http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/nostalgia-for-the-past-boosts-optimism-for-the-future-study-suggests.html Night vision According to a study conducted by Kevin Dieter at Vanderbilt University, half of the 129 participants were able to see the motions of their hand even in the dark, suggesting that our brains... ...

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Turning photography around, 360 degrees

For those who love taking panoramic pictures and capturing a larger perspective of their special moments, Panono will certainly spark your interest. The Panono camera allows the user to throw the camera into the air and automatically capture a 360 degree image at the highest point the camera reaches. What is achieved is a complete aerial panoramic image of your surroundings. The Panono camera comes in the shape of a ball outfitted with 36 small cameras that deliver a 72 megapixel photo and an incredible “360 degree by 360 degree” image. To take a picture one can throw the Panono up, or also utilize it as a handheld camera and press a button on the top of the ball to snap a picture. The ball is encased in tough clear plastic to ensure its safety during those rare times when the Panono is not caught on the way back down. This device comes from the mind of Jonas Pfeil, creator of the camera and president of the Panono company. Though... ...

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West Village energy: Close enough

UC Davis’ West Village opened two years ago, boasting to be the largest zero-net energy planned community in the nation. However, a study by the Davis Energy Group revealed that it currently produces only 87 percent of its energy, failing to meet the promised goal of 100 percent of its own energy. West Village is supposed to be a city on the hill for aspiring sustainable developers, and has received quite a bit of media and political attention since opening. Solar panels over the parking lots generate most of the electricity at the moment, and are providing just as much as the initial models predicted. The problem is not in the generation, but in the consumption. Currently housing 1,980 students, faculty and staff, West Village is predicted to house 3,500 in the next several years, and 350 single-family homes will also be built at some point in the future. The energy inefficiency has been identified as collective overuse, as the community planning was based on data from family units, and... ...

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Influenza strikes UC Davis

It’s that time of year again. The weather has us huddling indoors around warm fires. Friends and family gather together to spread holiday cheer, delicious food and … influenza. It’s not something we typically think about, but it’s important. Right now, especially, UC Davis students should make sure they know all about influenza and how it works. Thomas J. Ferguson, M.D., PhD, is the medical director of the UC Davis Student Health and Wellness Center. “We are starting to see some influenza cases among students,” Ferguson said in an email. Influenza is an infectious disease that affects birds and mammals. It is caused by RNA viruses from the family Orthomyxoviridae. RNA viruses use ribonucleic acid (RNA) as their genetic material to infect hosts. This RNA is what makes us feel sick, as it helps the viruses replicate inside us and produce toxins that can harm us. Influenza is commonly mistaken for other illnesses, such as the common cold and the “stomach flu,” but it is a more intense disease caused... ...

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